A MILITARY widow has revealed she is running one of America's toughest races in honour of her late husband.
Lisa Hallett, whose husband CPT John Hallett was killed in Afghanistan in 2009, set up the inspiring organisation wear blue: run to remember, to bring together relatives of fallen soldiers.
Today, the organisation has some 50 communities around the world, all honouring the service and sacrifice of members of the American military.
Speaking to The Sun Online from her home in DuPont, Washington, Lisa, 41, recalled the moment her world changed forever.
"John and I knew each other our whole lives, we met when we were five years old in kindergarten," she said. "We grew up together in Northern California, but we were just friends."
That changed when, in high school, the pair travelled to Mexico as part of a youth group to build homes for those in need.
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Lisa said: "That was the point where I really fell head over heels for this guy."
However, nothing happened and after high school, John went to the prestigious West Point military academy on the other side of the country, while Lisa stayed in California.
But when their paths crossed again, the pair began dating and fell in love, getting married on December 27, 2003.
They had three children, Jackson, Bryce, and Heidi, who was born on August 2, 2009, while John was deployed in Afghanistan.
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"I was nursing the baby while I was on the phone to John," she said. "And John says to me, 'I've never heard the baby cry'. I said, 'Well, don't worry, you have a lifetime for that'."
It was the last time the couple would speak. On August 25, 2009, John was returning from a village where he and three other brave soldiers had been delivering medicine to a village struck by cholera when they were ambushed.
When Lisa was taken aside and told by a senior commander of her husband's death, she was cradling her three-week-old baby.
Lisa was now a single mother to three young children, trying to navigate her grief.
She reached out to the fellow spouses of fallen US soldiers, and together with Erin O'Connor, they organised to meet for a run at a Burger King car park next to the base in DuPont.
"That first time there were maybe 23 of us," she recalled. "We told everyone to wear our spouse's blue physical training shirt, these hideous things, and ran around the airfield.
"The next few times, we started placing flags along the route. Then we started training for a marathon together.
"We realised that with each step we were taking, we were living the legacies of our fallen heroes. We were showing support for each other. And we were giving each other the strength to not only endure deployment but to come out on the other side just a little bit stronger."
Nobody wants to be stuck in grief, but you also don't want to forget
Wear blue: run to remember was born. 13 years later, it is a global network of communities linked to the armed forces, with groups as far afield as Germany, Hawaii and Japan.
"We come together in this really thoughtful community, where we speak the names of the guys and gals who've made the ultimate sacrifice and show our support for those who fight for our freedom," Lisa went on.
She believes that by connecting the relatives of the fallen, they are offering them something many didn't even realise was missing.
"Nobody wants to be stuck in grief," she explained. "But you also don't want to forget. With this community, I always think of it as you're learning to stand on your own but not be alone."
It also keeps alive the memory of their relatives, especially in the minds of their children, many of whom may hardly remember them.
Lisa has run a number of races, but this month, she faces her toughest challenge yet.
She is running the Leadville 100, a 100-mile race through the Rocky Mountains that must be completed in under 30 hours.
As well as tackling long-distance running, athletes face dizzying altitudes of up to 12,000 feet above sea level.
Only around half of all those on the starting line will complete the race, and only 15% of those who take part are women.
Explaining why she picked the Leadville 100, Lisa said: "Every year around the anniversary of John's passing, I challenge myself to do something big, hard and scary.
"It's not lost on me that there wasn't one of Heidi's birthdays that he could be there for or any of the kids' first days at school.
"But when I get out there and challenge myself, it's my chance to live inspired by John's life and take advantage of the incredible, beautiful world that he didn't get to experience."
This year's race falls on August 20, five days before the 13th anniversary of John's death, and only around 200 will take part, including a handful from wear blue: run to remember.
She hopes to raise $100,000 for programmes to support the families of fallen soldiers.
Lisa admits she feels "nervous", but "in a good way" about taking part in the race, after getting through the lottery process to even compete.
"I am fortunate that I know how precious every moment is," she said. "And I don't think that everybody takes advantage to stretch themselves and grow into their potential.
"And I think when we do things that make us nervous, that are scary, painful or uncomfortable, those are the moments that we grow and can realise our potential."
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She will be cheered on by her three children Jackson, 16, Bryce, 14, andHeidi, 13.
For more information about Lisa's inspiring campaign, go to https://www.wearblueruntoremember.org/.
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